Friday, January 11, 2008

Feeder Frenzy

We were deceived.

For a brief time the sun shone bright this morning, so we decided to take a walk at the Rocky River Reservation. By the time we climbed this hill, the wind was blowing cold and fierce and the sky had turned pewter once again. We stayed out long enough for me to get what I THINK was my first-ever good look at pileated woodpecker. Happy happy. Joy joy. And then we went home.

This afternoon D was headed to help out at Patchman Music, which involved a trip to Brecksville. I decided to pack up the sketchbook and go along for the ride, since the Brecksville Reservation (and Nature Center) would be right around the corner. Surely I could find a non-windy corner in which to sketch...

Of course, the minute I got there, it started raining.

So I drove around the park for a while, looking at woods and watercourses. There's standing water everywhere after the deluge earlier this week, and the creeks and rivers are running high and brown. (Think of the homewaters in, say, May.) I stopped in for a while at the Nature Center, a nice piece of WPA-era post-and-beam construction with big windows and stocked bird feeders at one end. The place was overrun with black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice (titmouses?), and white-breasted nuthatches... with a smattering of tree sparrows, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves, and juncos. Here the big woodpecker score was a brief appearance by the red-bellied beast. (Ch-CHING!)

I tried to sketch. Really I did. But I got dizzy from the sheer numbers of frenzied, seed-gorging creatures, not one of which stood still for more than a fraction of a second. When a SQUIRREL becomes the easier subject choice because it's sedate relative to everything else, well... that's just not right, I tell ya. After three pages of scribbles I gave up and went back outside.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I'd finally succumbed to the type of damp cold that I had expected to plague me this entire trip, but which I had managed to avoid so far.

Back in the car.


What to do?

I took a look at the map (I am FOREVER lost here without mountains or other point of geographic reference) and headed east-ish through the park. Just after I crossed over Chippewa Creek, I spotted this beauty of a strange tree, conveniently located across from a small parking lot. Perfect. I backed the car into a slot, put the windshield wipers on "intermittent," and settled in.

(Of course, I am once again stumped by identification. The branches above were quite white and gnarly, wiggly, twisty things. NOT something we have at home. I'll update when I get it figured out.*)

*I'm gonna have to start paying a research fee to my friend Kim, who, in addition to loaning me a pair of binoculars, sent me a great link to the tree guide on the Ohio DNR site. 'Tis American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)- a species completely not on my radar.

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